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Duration:06:53
Uploaded:2022-08-08
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Tardigrades have been through a lot. They’ve been sent to the moon. They’ve had the moisture sapped out of them. At times, they’ve been in extreme heat. And at other times, they’ve had to contend with extreme cold. Well, today, we’ve got a new one for you. A harrowing journey for these tardigrades that have taken them through, what we assume, must be the worst thing that tardigrades have yet been subjected to. These poor, enduring tardigrades got stuck in postal security.

Thank you Maria for sending us these amazing tardigrades!
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SOURCES:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329481933_A_closer_look_at_Batillipes_dicrocercus_and_new_records_of_Batillipes_potiguarensis_Tardigrada_Arthrotardigrada_from_the_Brazilian_coast_with_comments_on_intra-_and_interspecific_variability
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12526-016-0526-x

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This episode is sponsored by Wren, a website where you calculate your carbon emissions.

You can also sign up to make a monthly contribution to offset your emissions or support rainforest protection projects by clicking our link in the description. Tardigrades have been through a lot.

They’ve been sent to the moon. They’ve had the moisture sapped out of them. At times, they’ve been in extreme heat.

And at other times, they’ve had to contend with extreme cold. And they have borne this all with as much dignity as a creature nicknamed “moss piglet” can, not knowing that on the other side would be a whole audience of scientists and microscopy fans waiting to hear about the latest achievement in tardigrade survival that they’ve managed to unlock. Well, today, we’ve got a new one for you.

A harrowing journey for these tardigrades that have taken them through, what we assume, must be the worst thing that tardigrades have yet been subjected to. These poor, enduring tardigrades got stuck in postal security. Their journey through the macrocosmos began in a much more idyllic place: a beach in Portugal.

These are marine tardigrades, which we’ve never been able to show on our channel before for the very simple reason that we’d never found them before. Sadly, there is not much information available about marine tardigrades compared to freshwater ones, so we won’t be able to dive too deep into their lives today. But we can watch their strange gecko-like feet as they walk across the slide, and appreciate that they are indeed very, very weird to look at.

And James, our master of microscopes, had been searching for marine tardigrades in the various sand samples he gets from the Baltic Sea. But he couldn’t find any, perhaps because the water wasn’t salty enough. He’d even trawled through coral farm samples to find them, but still no luck.

But then James reached out to a marine biologist friend in Portugal named Maria and asked if she could send some Portugal beach samples along. You know, the usual favors between friends. So Maria went to the beach, following James’ instructions as she dug through the sand at different phases of the tide, and gathered algae and biofilm from the rocks.

Then she packed up the samples in a box, and sent it in the mail. Within that box, not yet known to either its sender or receiver, were these Batillipes tardigrades. Batillipes is a genus of marine tardigrades.

And ironically, given how difficult they are for James to find now, the first Batillipes tardigrades were actually found in the Baltic Sea, and since then there have been at least 36 species described. We don’t know exactly what species these Batillipes are, but they do strongly resemble a species called Batillipes minius that was discovered in northern Portugal in 2015. And what was striking to James when he first saw them is just how small they are.

He’d been expecting them to be so much larger, more on the order of their freshwater relatives like this one, which at 200x looks like a giant compared to the Batillipes. But James didn’t know that these adorable little tardigrades were on route to him. When Maria sent him those samples from the beach, they were just hypothetical little worlds teeming with unknown and unseen life.

And then those hypothetical little worlds got stuck in Germany for security reasons. Why? No idea.

The microcosmos often has us shrugging and saying, “We have no idea,” to its many mysteries. And I suppose that mirrors the reality of the macrocosmos as well. Because sometimes, you find out your package full of beach sand is going to be stuck in a German warehouse for the weekend, and all you can do is shrug.

After someone opened up the package and checked that everything had been declared correctly, the package, and our tardigrades, were able to resume their journey and make it to James’ doorstep. But unfortunately, the lack of oxygen meant that the algae samples weren’t able to survive their delay in the warehouse. But that would never stop James from trying to find whatever he can in his samples.

So he spent 16 straight hours looking through them. And to his delight, the sand samples had a whole herd of Batillipes wandering around in them, having survived a spectacular journey they didn’t even know they were on. Thank you for coming on this journey with us as we explore the unseen world that surrounds us.

And thank you again to Wren for sponsoring this episode. Wren is a website where you can calculate your carbon emissions, then offset it by funding projects like mineral weathering in Scotland or providing clean burning fuel and cook stoves for refugees in Uganda. We’ll need a lot of different approaches to stop the climate crisis, and this is just one way that you can learn more about your carbon contribution and take some action.

You’ll answer a few questions about your lifestyle and they’ll also show you ways you can start reducing your carbon emissions. Now no one can reduce their footprint to zero, but using Wren, you can help offset what you have left. Once you sign up, you’ll receive updates from the tree planting, rainforest protection, and other projects you support.

And we’ve partnered with Wren to plant 10 additional trees for the first 100 people who sign up using our link in the description! The people on the screen right now are the real heroes of this story except for, of course, whoever was in Germany who decided that, yes, indeed James could have his tardigrades. Also the tardigrades are an additional hero in this story, there's a lot of heroes, cause there's a lot of stories.

But we are extremely grateful to those folks right here. They are our Patreon patrons, and if you want to be a reason why this channel exists, you can check it out at Patreon.com/JourneytoMicro. If you want to see more from our Master of Microscopes, James Weiss, you can check out Jam & Germs on Instagram.

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